Taxpayers Will Be Paid in Full For the GM Bailout: Obama

U.S. taxpayers will be repaid in full for the Obama administration's bailout of General Motors when the once-bankrupt automaker offers stock to the public later this year, President Obama said in an interview on CNBC Thursday.

President Obama speaking with Phil LeBeau
President Obama speaking with Phil LeBeau

"We expect taxpayers will get back all the money my administration has invested in GM," Obama said. "Over time, that is going to be extraordinarily significant. It means we stood up this industry and you know what, we got a return."

Last year, the government bailed out both GM and Chrysler with $60 billion in government aid, a controversial move that the administration continues to defend. Obama's comments referred to these dollars, not the money given to the automakers during the Bush administration. Forddid not accept federal bailout funds.

The president is touting the fact both GM and Chrysler—as well as Ford—are profitable for the first time in six years and that the industry as a whole has hired 55,000 workers after losing more than 300,000 in the year before he took office, and 95,000 since he became president.

The interview came after Obama spoke to workers at a Ford assembly plant. Last week Obama visited General Motors and Chrysler plants, where he defended the U.S. bailout of those companies in 2009.

In the interview, Obama also acknowledged the economy has not recovered as fast as it should, and said the administration is trying to help by offering tax incentives to small businesses, and to eliminate the capital gains tax for startups. A bill to extend these credits is stuck in the Senate because, Obama says, Republicans are "blocking it."

"We had tried to work with the other party in getting some of these things one precisely because the recovery is not as strong as it should be," he said.

Despite sluggish job growth in the country, Obama also said he is confident the U.S. economy won't slip into a double-dip recession.

To address long-term unemployment, Obama said, the U.S. will have to add more manufacturing jobs in growing industries, like clean energy and in "21st century infrastructure."

One example of clean tech manufacturing is in the worldwide advanced hybrid/electric battery market, an industry dominated today by overseas companies. By 2015, Obama said the U.S. should have up to 40 percent of that market, a jump from the 2 percent slice it has today.

Despite Americans love of big cars — July auto sales figures showed U.S. appetite for SUVs and trucks were on the rise again — Obama said the administration would meet its goal of moving toward greater fuel efficiency because the industry is moving toward making trucks and SUVs that are more fuel efficient. A new, 30 percent more fuel efficient Ford Explorer will be made at the plant Obama visited Thursday.

“We have to recognize we need to be strong in the car market, and in the truck market, and in the SUV market, and all these markets will be more fuel efficient in the future than they were in the past,” Obama said.